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Ben got that right. April 15, 2013

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“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

—Benjamin Franklin

Fish, guests, and God knows what. June 9, 2012

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“Guests, like fish, start to stink after three days.”

                 —Benjamin Franklin

Well, they’re not the only ones. Silence Dogood and our friend Ben were rudely awakened last week by a rifle shot in a neighboring farmer’s field. We knew the farmer had hit whatever it was because there was only one shot. What we didn’t know was that the unfortunate, mortally wounded creature was going to drag itself across the road, across our yard, and under our deck before succumbing to its wounds.

Sure enough, three days later, we were confronted by an appalling smell emanating from under the deck. A stench of death and decay that continues—now accompanied by a swarm of flies—to this day. And of course, ours is a ground-level deck with barely a foot of clearance, so there’s absolutely no way to get under it and extract the hapless corpse. 

This would be horrible enough under any circumstances. But for our friend Ben and Silence, it’s tragic, and not just because of the death of the poor creature. Our deck is full of life and color: fruiting, flowering and foliage plants, colorful container combinations, a half-barrel water garden. We have literally hundreds of plants out there in the season, creating a little piece of paradise for us. We love to sit out on our deck in the morning, have cocktails or wine on the deck in the afternoon, and watch the sun set on the deck in the evening, with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, in supremely contented attendance.

Our view from the deck extends past all the deck plants, across our stream, Hawk Run, through the backyard with its firepit and huge shade trees, to our greenhouse and sunny gardens, on through the farm fields behind our property, and ultimately to the mountains that ring our happy valley. “Utopian” is not too strong a word. We love to turn on our strings of chile lights in the evening, light a fire in the firepit, and enjoy each other’s and Shiloh’s company in slowdown mode as the light gradually fades.

No more. The stench and flies make sitting on the deck a non-option. We feel like prisoners in our own home, deprived of the most pleasant and looked-forward-to part of our day, the time when we can just watch the light glittering through the leaves and the goldfinches at our feeder, listen to the gurgle of our peaceful little stream, enjoy downtime with Shiloh, and not have to even think, much less worry, about anything.

Our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, famously noted when the stink would start. Too bad he didn’t mention when it would stop.


Death and taxes. April 17, 2012

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“Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

                           —Benjamin Franklin

In honor of tax day, we here at Poor Richard’s Almanac are offering up a baker’s dozen wise words from our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. They may not keep away the taxman, but if you take Dr. Franklin’s advice to heart, you’ll definitely be on your way to becoming healthy, wealthy and wise. Thanks, Ben!

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

“Half a truth is often a great lie.”

“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.”

“A place for everything, everything in its place.”

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

“Necessity never made a good bargain.”

“To lengthen thy life lessen thy meals.”

“There are no gains without pains.”

“A good example is the best sermon.”

“If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some.” 

Happy tax day, everyone! May your refunds be prompt and no auditors ever darken your door!

The wit and wisdom of Benjamin Franklin. September 24, 2011

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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to celebrate this blog’s hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, by sharing a few of my favorite of old Ben’s sayings. Doctor Franklin had an unparalled understanding of human nature, and the ability to compress a great deal of wisdom into a single witty, memorable sentence, as you’re about to see.

Let’s find out what Ben has to share with us today:

“He that speaks much, is much mistaken.”

“Three good meals a day is bad living.”

“Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion.”

“A good example is the best sermon.”

“He that lives upon hope will die fasting.”

“The discontented man finds no easy chair.”

“Love your neighbor, yet don’t pull down your hedge.”

“A man who is wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”

“Fear not death, for the sooner we die, the longer we shall be immortal.”

Ben died an old man, but I’m willing to bet he didn’t fear death—he was probably looking forward to exploring all the wonders and phenomena on the other side just as he’d done while on Earth. He certainly succeeded in gaining immortality, however, here among us if not in the afterlife.

Please share your favorite Ben Franklin quotes with us!



WWBD? September 4, 2011

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As most of you know, our hero and blog mentor here at Poor Richard’s Almanac is the great Benjamin Franklin, whom we consider to be one of the brightest and wisest men who ever lived. Dr. Franklin is the West’s answer to Confucius, and we’re sure he would have been regarded as a Buddha had he lived in India rather than America.

Ben Franklin’s knowledge of human nature and its contradictions, its capacity for folly and heroism, its strengths and weaknesses, its silliness and seriousness, its love of worldly pleasure and comfort and its longing for the eternal, remains unsurpassed. Ben knew people. He understood people. So he was able to speak directly to people’s minds and hearts. That’s why if a Colonial family had one book, it was the Bible, but if they could manage two books, one was the Bible and the other was Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack. They knew they could rely on Old Ben to steer them right.

To this day, we here at Poor Richard’s Almanac try to keep Ben’s wisdom in mind when confronting the situations life presents to us. In every situation, we ask ourselves, What would Ben do?

Tempted by some bauble or treat when your budget’s tighter than tight? “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Starting to think you’re special? “A man wrapped up in himelf makes a very small bundle.”

Slacking off on putting stuff away as piles of clutter are taking over? “A place for everything, everything in its place.”

Using your house as a parking space, to grab some food, sleep and shower before rushing off to your ‘important’ work and ‘real’ life? “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”

Madder than hell? “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.”

Tempted to gossip, to spill the beans? “A small leak can sink a great ship.”

Catch yourself whining and complaining? “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”

Always taken by surprise by life? “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Wavering over making the effort to reach out, to do the good thing? “Do good to your friends to keep them, to your enemies to win them.”

And on and on. Ben Franklin has good advice to offer for every human situation. Living Ben’s way means living in harmony with your fellow men, keeping out of debt and distress, and growing as a person throughout life. Sounds like a good plan to us!


Who said it: Lincoln or Washington? February 15, 2010

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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to help you celebrate Presidents’ Day by testing your knowledge with a little quiz. When most of us recall sayings of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, we probably think of the Gettysburg Address or “I cannot tell a lie!” (Which is apocryphal, by the way; we don’t know if George Washington ever told a lie, but he certainly never said he couldn’t, that quote was made up by one of his biographers.) But these great men actually had a great deal more wisdom to share.

Here are some quotes by either Washington or Lincoln; can you guess who said what? Of course, I can’t resist slipping in one quote by our hero and blog mentor, the immortal Benjamin Franklin; can you pick it out? As always, I’ll give you the right answers at the end. But no cheating, now!

1. “I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”

2. “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”

3. “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

4. “A house divided aginst itself cannot stand.”

5. “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”

6. “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”

7. “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”

8. “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

9. “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”

10. “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”

11. “Avoid popularity if you would have peace.”

12. “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

13. “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

14. “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

15. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

16. “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

17. “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.”

18. “Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new at all.”

19. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

20. “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

And the answers: George Washington, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 12, 16; Abraham Lincoln, 1, 4, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20; and Ben Franklin, 6. How did you do?

Happy Presidents’ Day to all from all of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac!

Words to the wise. November 15, 2009

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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to share more of the wit and wisdom of our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. Old Ben’s wise advice makes every bit as much sense today as it did when he wrote it back in the 1700s. Follow it, and you too will be healthy, wealthy, and wise!

Just for fun, I’ve added one quote that’s not by Mr. F. Can you tell which one it is? I’ll let you know at the end. But no cheating, now!

“Let thy vices die before thee.”

“Let thy child’s first lesson be obedience, and the second may be what thou wilt.”

“If you would keep your secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend.”

“A quiet conscience sleeps in thunder, but rest and guilt live far asunder.”

“Speak little, do much; he that speaks much, is much mistaken.” 

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”

“A true friend is the best possession.”

“Procrastination is the thief of time.”

“Lend money to an enemy, and thou’lt gain him; to a friend and thou’lt lose him.”

“A man in a passion rides a mad horse.”

“All would live long, but none would be old.”

Ben has a lot more to teach us, but I’ll save that for another time. Meanwhile, did you guess which quote wasn’t Ben’s? It’s “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save,” by that modern sage, Will Rogers.

Happy birthday, Ben! January 17, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders would like to say happy birthday to our hero and blog mentor, Benjamin Franklin, on his 203rd birthday. He was born today, January 17th, waaaay back in 1706, but in many ways is as alive to Americans today as ever. We invite you to join old Ben’s birthday celebration by taking this quiz by our resident blog historian, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame. See how much you really know about America’s most (ahem) well-rounded Founding Father! (Answers, of course, will follow. But no cheating, now!)

1. Benjamin Franklin was born in:

a. Philadelphia

b. England

c. Boston

d. Washington, D.C.

2. Benjamin Franklin was called “Dr. Franklin” by his contemporaries. Why?

a. He had a doctorate from Harvard.

b. He’d gotten an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

c. He’d gone on to get a Ph.D. in electrical science at Oxford following his MBA from Princeton, then known as The College of New Jersey.

d. The title “Doctor” was an honorific bestowed on him as an honor because he was viewed as the leading scientist of his day.

3. Back in the day, Benjamin Franklin loved sports and games. Which of these did he not participate in?

a. swimming

b. chess

c. rugby

d. cards

e. guitar-playing

4. With which of the following women was Ben Franklin not romantically linked?

a. Deborah Read

b. Polly Stevenson

c. Madame Helvetius

d. Sally Fairfax

e. Princess Ekaterina Dashkova

5. Which of these positions wasn’t held by Ben Franklin?

a. American Minister to France

b. printer and newspaper publisher

c. Postmaster General to the Colonies

d. President of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society

e. Grand Master of a Lodge of Freemasons 

6. Which of these wasn’t invented by Ben Franklin?

a. bifocals

b. electricity

c. the rocking chair

d. the woodburning stove

e. Daylight Saving Time

f. the catheter

g. the $100 bill

h. the phonetic alphabet

i. the first chart of the Gulf Stream

j. the concept of refrigeration

k. the lightning rod

7. Which of these plays, movies, and books doesn’t actually feature Ben Franklin?

a. “1776”

b. Ben and Me

c. Isaac Asimov’s The Kite That Won the Revolution

d. “Ben Franklin in Paris”

e. “National Treasure”

f. “M.A.S.H.”

8. What institution did Ben Franklin not create?

a. The public library

b. The fire department

c. The University of Pennsylvania

d. The post office

e. The first hospital in the Americas

f. The first American militia

9. At which seminal event of America’s founding history was Benjamin Franklin not present?

a. The creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence

b. The Constitutional Congress and the signing of the Constitution

c. The repeal of the Stamp Act

d. The Treaty of Paris

e. The inauguration of George Washington

10. What is Ben Franklin’s most famous quote?

 a. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

b. “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

c. “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

d. “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

e. “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”

f. “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

g. “God helps them that help themselves.”

h. “Little strokes fell great oaks.”

i. “Time is money.”

j. “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

k. “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Ready for some answers? Here you go:

1. Ben Franklin was born in Boston, the tenth child and last son of the fruitful Josiah Franklin with his second wife, Abiah Folger Franklin. Josiah produced seventeen children in all. If the name Folger rings a bell, yes, Abiah was related to the coffee-producing Folgers. Ben ran off to Philadelphia at 17 to escape his cruel older brother Joseph, to whom he was apprenticed, and lived there the rest of his life (when not on extended stays in England and France). But his ancestors were indeed “franklands,” prosperous but not noble landholders in the mother country, England.

2. The correct answer is “d.” “Doctor” was an honorific, much like the honorary doctorates bestowed on famous people today. Harvard and Yale both bestowed honorary doctorates on Ben Franklin in 1753.

3.  To our knowledge, Ben Franklin never played rugby. But he was an enthusiastic and accomplished athlete who enjoyed swimming the massive Delaware River for pleasure, and he loved chess so much that he carried one of the first tiny travelling chess sets with him everywhere. He not only invented a musical intrument, the “glass armonica,” but played violin, harp, and, yes, guitar.

4. Ben Franklin enjoyed a reputation as a rake even in his own time, though to our (and the best current historians’) knowledge he never was actually physically involved with any women beyond the unknown mother of his illegitimate son, William, whom he fathered as a very young man and raised conscientiously as part of his “legitimate” family, and his subsequent common-law wife, Deborah Read. Though he clearly enjoyed a good flirtation with a pretty young woman, and proposed after Deborah’s death to Madame Helvetius, the scientific prodigy and widow of the Swiss Ambassador to the French Court, there is no proof that Ben was actually intimately involved with any of the numerous women with whom his name was linked. One woman on this list was never linked with Ben Franklin, however, but with another American icon, George Washington: Sally Fairfax, wife of George’s best friend, George William Fairfax. Though George and Sally never “hooked up” in the modern sense, he loved her passionately and idealistically all his life.

5. This is a trick question. Benjamin Franklin held all these positions in effect, though his actual title for the postmaster position was “Deputy Postmaster General.” His colleague was a political appointee and Ben did all the actual work.

6. Ben Franklin’s mind ranged far and wide, and his diverse inventions are proof. But, though he designed the first dollar coin for the new United States, paper money (aka currency) was unheard of in Ben’s day. Though he appears on the hundred-dollar bill, he didn’t invent it. And, though Ben may have been the first to propose a version of Daylight Saving Time in a pamphlet, he was being sarcastic. The person who actually established it was William Willett, in 1907. Shocking (so to speak) but true, Ben didn’t invent electricity, either, since electricity is a natural phenomenon. What he did was discover that people could channel electricity, which led to the invention of the lightning rod and opened the door for all subsequent electrical inventions (such as the light bulb).

7. Ben “stars” in all these books and productions, with two exceptions: “M.A.S.H.” protagonist “Hawkeye” Pierce’s full name is Benjamin Franklin Pierce. And Nicholas Cage’s character in the “National Treasure” movies is named Benjamin Franklin Gates, who in the first movie follows clues left by Benjamin Franklin to solve the crime. Ben himself never appears in either series.

8. The correct answer is again “d,” the post office. Ben did an enormous amount to make the Colonial postal service viable, but he didn’t create the office.

9. Benjamin Franklin was the only American present for all four major events—the repeal of the Stamp Act, signing of the Declaration of Independence, signing of the Constitution, and signing of the Treaty of Paris (which ended the Revolutionary War). But Ben was old, and though he lived to see George Washington elected as America’s first President (and congratulated him wholeheartedly), he died on April 17, 1790 (aged 84), and was not well enough to attend the actual inauguration of Washington on April 30, 1789.

10. Your guess is as good as ours. Old Ben came up with so many famous sayings that it’s hard to pick just one. We think what matters is that, over two hundred years after his birth, so many of his sayings are still known by everyone. Talk about a great tribute!

We agree with those who call Benjamin Franklin “the first American.” We also agree that Ben would be one of the few Founders who’d be delighted to be alive today, doubtless blogging like us along with his numerous other activities. Happy birthday, Ben!!!